Skiing is usually an activity done in cold and snow conditions, although there will be times when temperatures are warmer due to sunshine, or because you have built up heat though exertion. This article will focus on downhill skiing, which generally requires better insulation for participants, although there are other skiing disciplines such as back country skiing, which would normally see skiers wearing lighter weight shell or waterproof jackets.
A ski jacket needs to keep you warm when temperatures plummet on the slopes, but also allow some heat to escape when you warm up.
Skiers might also demand a jacket that is waterproof or, at least, water resistant because ski weather can include snow and rain. The chances are you will need protection from the snow, too, if you take a tumble.
An insulated ski jacket can vary in price from under £100 to many hundreds of pounds. In our best ski jackets guide and best women’s ski jacket guide the prices are wide ranging. As an example, the cheapest men’s – or unisex – ski jacket that we have reviewed is the Wedze Men’s Warm Ski Jacket, sold by Decathlon at a Recommended Retail Price (RRP) of £89.99. The most expensive ski jacket in this best of guide is the Arc'teryx Rush Jacket at RRP £600.
When it comes to our women’s ski jackets reviews, there are several in the more budget-friendly bracket, including a TOG24 Anvil Jacket at £120, as well as several jackets in the £200 brackets, such as the OOSC 1080 Ski & Snowboard Jacket at £199, as well as the Keela Munro is jacket and a DC Liberate Snowboarding Jacket both priced £200. At the other end of the scale, Helly Hansen sells their Verbier Infinity Jacket for around £600.
We consider whether you can rely on a budget ski jacket, or if you should pay more for reliability.
What makes ski jackets so expensive?
There are several reasons why some ski jackets are more expensive than others. To start with, you might notice that there are differences of prices across brands. In our guides, companies like Arc’Teryx, Helly Hansen, Artilect, Picture, Mammut and Schöffel command higher prices. In some cases, a brand’s reputation for quality will provide the opportunity for charging more for a product.
Some skiers also like to be seen in a well-known “label” on the slopes and so they will choose a brand that they feel epitomises that. For example, Picture and Schöffel are big ski apparel brands.
It’s true, too, that research and development can push up ski jacket prices. The companies that invest in new designs and product performance will usually charge more for their products.
Then there’s the design, materials and features of a ski jacket to consider. You will pay more for a high quality insulation – there are pros and cons of down versus synthetic insulation, too – or for Gore-Tex waterproofing.
A ski jacket with extra details could well be pricier, such as a snow-skirt (to stop snow getting up inside the jacket if you fall), a detachable or helmet compatible hood, a two-way front zip, a zipped pocket for your ski pass, a Recco reflector, pit zips for ventilation and other insulation improving concepts, such as Columbia’s Omni-Heat technology.
It’s worth noting that companies that aim to decrease their impact on the environment, such as using recycled materials, more eco-friendly designs and responsibly sourced down, will probably charge more for a ski jacket.
Do you even need an expensive ski jacket for your activities?
Do you ski multiple days or weeks each year? Do you live close to the ski slopes and spend much of your winter on skis? Do you like to take you skiing to more challenging levels, including back country ski touring and ski mountaineering? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, it might be that it is worth spending more on a ski jacket because you will probably be looking for better technology, more features and a jacket that will be durable.
Skiers who will be skiing in tough conditions, such as snow, rain and wind, might also think about a more expensive jacket to ensure higher quality insulation and waterproof fabrics.
But you probably don’t “need” to buy an expensive ski jacket just because it is a certain “brand”. This is a matter of preference and personally rated kudos.
From our reviews, it’s possible to see that you can pay less for a jacket that still scores highly for a range of good credentials.
In our men’s ski jackets guide the most expensive jacket is the Arc’Teryx Rush jacket at £600. This is a lightweight hard-shell jacket without insulation – so it’s good for both downhill and back country skiing if you had layers underneath to suit the activity – and boasts highlights such as a great build quality, athletic cut, and excellent weatherproofing. Our reviewer also scored it 4.5 out of five score but there are other jackets with just as good scores that are cheaper.
For example, the Rab Khroma Kinetic is also rated 4.5 out of 5 and costs £320.
Likewise, in the woman’s ski jacket guide, the most expensive product is the Helly Hansen Verbier Infinity Jacket at £600. It does gain a top five-out-of-five score from our reviewer for good quality and fit, as well as and waterproofing, a Life Pocket that preserves your phone’s battery life and a RECCO reflector, but there are cheaper ski jackets to consider.
However, at a lower price and also with a five-out-five score is the Helly Hansen Aphelia Lifaloft Ski Jacket at £480. There are other jackets with a good score from our reviewer but costing a third of the price of the Helly Hansen Verbier jacket.
The Keela Munro ski jacket is also waterproof and windproof with a good rating for breathability. The jacket is said to be rather heavy by our reviewer and not as warm as some others but it still gains a 4.5 score. If you are worried about warmth you could always ad lightweight insulation layer underneath or doubt le up on baselayers.
The independent brand OOSC's 1080 jacket has been rated four out of five and is also good on waterproofing and boasts venting.
The brand is known for funky retro design so this could be popular as a cheaper option with skiers who like to look good on the slopes. In addition, the 1080 jacket is made from recycled polyester so it gains eco brownie points.
DC’s Liberate jacket is aimed at snowboarders and also scores four out of a possible five. It is well insulated and has a high than average waterproof rating so it will keep you warm and dry in all kinds of skiing weather.
Our reviewer liked this jacket for good looks, although they also noted the exterior pockets were not located in the best positions.
When deciding on whether you need to buy an expensive ski jacket, you’ll need to work out what you are most looking for and whether there are compromises you are prepared to make.
We recommend that you make sure the jacket is well insulated and waterproof – hopefully at least 10,000mm hydrostatic head – and with the features that are important to your type of skiing or snowboarding, such as a snow-skirt and vented armpits. Where savings can be made is by choosing a cheaper brand of jacket.
Which brands can you recommend for budget ski jackets?
Looking at our ski jacket reviews, there are a number of products that are rated four-out-of-five by our reviewers yet still have an RRP of around £200 or less.
This includes the cheapest ski jacket in our guides, the Wedze Men’s Warm Ski Jacket, sold by Decathlon at £89.99. It has a lower score of 3.5 out of five but was still rated by our reviewer for being good value, very warm and including a good pocket layout and snow- skirt.
With a 4.5/5 score and a price of £120, the TOG24 Anvil Jacket for women includes a water-repellent treatment and is rated for warmth with recycled insulation. It is let down by fewer size choices than other brands and no waterproofing but for anyone who is thinking about taking up skiing and plans to ski in good weather only, then this could be a good choice at a budget-friendly price.
There is also the OOSC 1080 Ski & Snowboard Jacket at £199. The Keela Munro ski jacket for women RRPs at £200, as does the DC Liberate Snowboarding Jacket.
You could take a look at all of these more budget-friendly brands to see if there are other ski jacket options for men women and children to suit your requirements.
More tips for buying a ski jacket
Consider whether you need a shell jacket or an insulated ski jacket for your skiing trip or adventures.
Look for ski jackets in the spring and summer sales and don’t be afraid to buy last season’s products. Most people wear ski jackets for years and so it doesn't really matter if it's last year's colours or style.
Buy second hand if you can because ski jackets are rarely worn out and it is a much more environmentally friendly way to shop.
Don’t be swayed by brands if you are keen to save money. There are plenty of jackets that a cheaper – often half the price or less – than the bigger name brands and still with great reviews.
With a list of items to buy for a ski trip, it’s worth trying to save money where you can.
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Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favorite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing (both downhill and backcountry). Aside from her own adventures, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy getting outside and exploring, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors.